The Quirk, the Savvy & the
Naughty About the Olympics
As the biggest sports event is about to wrap up its rings, we had a bout of contrition and gave in to it. But fear not. We’ll skip what you’ve already been nauseated about the U.K. edition of the ancient Greek games that had a 20-century hiatus, and resumed in 1894.
Instead, you’ll read about a spooky sight hovering over the Olympics’ bombastic opening, gold medalists who sold their trophies, the champion who became a farmer, and, hold your nose plugs and keep your mouth shut, what swimmers may be doing all along in the pool.
We told you, neither your usual fare of uplifting profiles and heartbreak and redemption stories, nor the biased, prime-time delayed, ad-stuffed TV coverage of the games. And not a word about that ideal of a ‘peaceful competition without the burden of politics, religion, or racism.’
Corporate sponsorship, unrealistic expectations, manipulated patriotism; there are so many things that turn us off from a cleared-eye appreciation and what these games may represent for the world at large. But don’t call us cynics for such a blunt view just yet.
Perhaps it’s the ‘human side’ of it all that does it for us. For one, the perception that some will emerge superstars, ready to sell soda and junk food, while the majority will return to obscurity without hardly a picture of their feats to remember, is truly disheartening.
But cheer up, we say. Apart from all that, or despite of it, the games themselves are quite thrilling. At least the ones that are not thrown, or unfairly decided by referee errors, or both. You know what? We’ll do everybody a favor just getting to the stories right now.
THE UNINVITED SAUCER
Estimates put the global audience of the Opening of the Summer Olympics in London at 900 million people. They saw an impressive display of pyrotechnics and theatrical splendor rarely seen before. But many also witnessed a floating, ghost-like UFO, clearly visible above the fireworks.
Is it a blimp? Is it an atmospheric phenomenon? Is it an observer spacecraft from another galaxy? Your guess is as good as anybody else, since it could be anything, really. We long know that what something looks like and what it actually is are two astronomically spread apart things.
For us, it could be as well our Uncle Bob in one of his eccentric contraptions, showing off, for all we care. That’s because, even though we love this sort of off-kilter sightings, we’re tired of investing too much into it, specially if it’s something flying so high above us.
And the footage, why can’t we never get some decent, high-definition, well lit footage when these things appear? Why does it always have to be fuzzy, and slightly off-focus, and rarely as unequivocal as the hundreds of thousands of airplanes that we routinely spot crossing above our heads?
You may ask each of the seven billion of our closest ‘friends’ on this planet, and you’ll probably get close to at least a billion of different, possible and unlikely explanations to the UFO phenomenon. On our part, we have a killer theory too, but we’ll tell abpit that only when we’re sure Uncle Bob is no longer around.
SOLD BUT NOT FOR SCRAP
Mark Wells, Wladimir Klitschko, Anthony Ervin, Otylia Jedrzejczak, and Tommie Smith. If you follow the games, chances are you already know about these gold medalists, and their personal reasons to sell their coveted prizes. If you don’t, you’re probably angry at each and everyone of them.
Please, don’t. For those who may have seen them reaching the top, and certainly shared on their accomplishments even if vicariously, we may think we know how does it feel to make it at that stage and level. But in reality, we have no idea.
Instead, we’re more likely to understand what they went through if we look at our own lives. That’s when we, and them, all reach a common ground of few highs and plenty of lows. Except, of course, that most of us live our lives in ‘quiet desperation,’ and our highs are almost never broadcast.
‘I’ve slept with this medal for the past two weeks,’ wrote 1980 U.S. hockey team member Wells, when he sold it to pay for medical bills. Klitschko, a still active Ukraine box champion, sold his to benefit the children’s foundation he manages with his brother. The anonymous buyer returned him the 1996 medal.
Both swimming champs Ervin (2000) and Jedrzejczak (2004) sold their silverware for good causes: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami victims, and a Polish charity for leukemia kids. But track start Smith, whose fist salute marked the 1968 games, hasn’t been able to sell his yet, or even given a reason as for why he plans to do so.
A FRIEND OF A FARMER
You’ve heard of Michael Phelps’s tally of Olympic glory. He seems set for life, but what he’ll do from now on only time will tell. Now meet another swimmer, Natalie Coughlin, who won 12 medals total, six in Greece only, plus Beijing, and now London, and is tied for the most won by a U.S. woman ever.
In a certain way, she’s also set for life, too, as she seems to have decided to follow her other passion, this one on land: being a urban farmer. That’s what this 29 year old from Lafayette, California, intends to return to, as soon as she’s done with the games.
Not that she’s retiring from swimming. But with her 10 citrus trees, seven seasonal vegetable beds, five chickens for eggs, plus her two dogs and plans to have honeybees too, even if the water thing dries up, she’s already plenty to do with her life for years to come.
Like many athletes before her, Natalie’s earned her stripes and literally achieved gold through sheer drive and personal sacrifices. There’s no shortage of stories about former champions wasting their years past their prime, but Natalie may as well be the one that will get to cheer us up, instead.
THERE’S NO DYE FOR ‘OLYMPEEING’
And then, the perfect ‘rain on your parade’ story, to finish this post, provided by Carly Geehr, a former USA Swimming National Team member. In an frank interview to Quora, she’s answered the age-old question that have crossed the minds of many a swimmer enthusiast (who may not even know how to swim).
Do Olympic or competitive swimmers ever pee in the pool? We’ll give you a chance to send the kids in the room away, lest we not encourage them to finally realize that much of what we tell them is non-sense. For the answer is an embarrassing, resounding, life-altering yes. And she should know it.
Time to get those plugs and close your mouth tight, too. For Carly has no problem putting it on writing: ‘Nearly 100% of elite competitive swimmers pee in the pool. Regularly. Some deny it, some proudly embrace it, but everyone does it.’
She elaborates it, as to when and under what conditions that occurs but, after giving the matter careful consideration, we decided that if you really want to know, you may as well follow the links. But you need to promise us to come back. Because, even without getting down and dirty, there’s more.
The issue has been known as the dark side of competitive sports. The higher the demand to overcame nature and achieve what our bodies have to be stretched to their limits to achieve, the harder it is to line up their own natural functions to play along.
Which sport modalities may we be talking about, you may ask. Pretty much every single one that requires full and complete surrender to its demands. To the point that crossing that finish line becomes more important that your own life, that kind of demand.
In the light of the possibility of winning a gold medal, a trophy, the award dedicated to only a minority of humankind, one needs to trade, sometimes, their most intimate secrets and sources of shame and trauma. And these, as we know, reside nowhere else but in our own bodies.
We’ll leave at that. But before we go, let’s get something straight: remember what you’ve been told, about certain chemical dyes that react with the chlorine in swimming pools to reveal the presence of urine? Well, once and for all, there is no such a thing.
So suddenly, you may think you have two things to confront your parents about: that Olympic swimmers would never ever pee in the pool. And even if they would, it’d be immediately revealed to all to see. Forget about it; it’s not even worth mentioning it anymore. Just get those plugs and keep your mouth shut.